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I didn’t mind.

If I couldn’t have her, I’d at least have the memories of what we shared.

On a cold evening in September, I received the call I’d been dreading for so many years. The call that rocked my world upside down and left me dazed and confused.

“Jackson, it’s Alex. Your dad is in the ICU.”

The second the words were spoken, I felt as if I’d died. I rushed to the hospital, and when I got to the reception desk, I panicked. “Hi, my dad was brought in. He’s in the ICU, a-a-and—” I began to stutter as the receptionist stared my way.


“Mike Emery, yes. Let me look up which room he’s in, Jackson,” she said, typing in some information. “He’s in room 234, on the second floor. Elevators are down the hall to the left.”

I started moving before she even finished talking. I broke out into a run, and instead of taking the elevator, I shot up the stairs. My heart sat in my throat as I hurried to 234, and when I arrived, Alex was standing in the hallway talking to a doctor.

“What’s going on?” I barked, barreling forward. “What’s the deal?” The anger that raced through my chest when I looked up and saw Finn staring my way only pissed me off more. “You’re his doctor?”

“Yes, and—”

“No. We want someone else.”

“What? I’m sorry, I’m the only one on the floor tonight and—”

“I don’t give a damn. Call someone else,” I ordered. The last thing I wanted was that asshole to be dealing with my father’s care.

“Jackson, look, I know we’ve had our issues, but please believe that my patients are always my top priority,” Finn stated. “None of my personal issues are going to affect your father’s treatment.”

“Bullshit. Get a new doctor,” I said through clenched teeth. My blood was racing, and I hadn’t had a chance to slow it down since getting the call from Alex.

“Jackson,” Alex cut in. “Just listen to him. He was updating me on Mike’s condition.”

I grimaced but didn’t say another word. I crossed my arms, and my eyes were locked on Finn. I didn’t trust the asshole, but at that moment, I didn’t really have a choice.

“Your father suffered from acute alcohol poisoning. Your uncle found him passed out with vomit in his mouth, and he called an ambulance right away. Though he hasn’t woken up yet, we are closely working to stabilize him. We are watching his airways and maintaining his circulation and breathing. Now, it’s mainly a waiting game until he actually wakes up.”

“That’s it?” I growled. “All you have to offer me is waiting? Are you kidding me?”

Finn frowned, and I wanted to slam my fist right into his face. “I wish I had more information for you, but that’s where we are right now.”

I wanted to cuss him out, but I didn’t. I walked into Dad’s hospital room, saw him hooked up to all those machines, and I swore my heart died all over again. “Fuck,” I said on an exhalation, pulling a chair up beside his bed. I lowered my head and sniffled.

He looked like shit. He was so skinny and weak, and it seemed like those machines and wires were the only thing keeping him alive.

“I can’t believe you did this,” I said, taking his hand into mine. “Listen, I don’t really have time for this, so can you just wake up? All right?” I nudged him in the arm. “Just wake up, all right?”

“Jackson…” Alex’s voice was low, but I ignored him.

“Wake up, you fucking asshole,” I said to my father, the man who had once been my hero. My chest burned as I choked on my words and tears began to fall from my eyes. My head fell to our embraced hands, and I began to fall apart. “Please, Dad,” I whispered. “Just wake up.”


Seven hours had passed, and he was still not waking up. They used the term alcoholic coma and told me there was nothing they could really do except for wait.

I was so damn tired of waiting.

“Jackson,” a voice said from the doorway. I’d been in the same chair in the same position since I’d arrived. I looked up to see Judy standing there. She gave me a small smile. “Hey, Jackson.”

Seeing her eyes made me miss her sister.

“What are you doing here?” I asked.

“I heard about your dad. As you know, rumors get around this town fast. I figured you could use someone to sit with you.” My stomach knotted up, but I didn’t reply as she walked into the room. She sat down beside me and gave me a small smile. “Are you okay?”


“Okay. It’s okay not to be okay. But just know that you’re not alone.”

I lowered my head, bewildered by Judy sitting beside me. She owed me nothing, not an ounce of her time or energy, yet there she was, sitting beside me, letting me know that I wasn’t alone.